The first edition of this book profoundly challenged and divided students of philosophy, sociology, and the history of science when it was published in 1976. In this second edition, Bloor responds in a substantial new Afterword to the heated debates engendered by his book.
David Bloor's challenging new evaluation of Wittgenstein's account of rules and rule-following brings together the rare combination of philosophical and sociological viewpoints. Wittgenstein enigmatically claimed that the way we follow rules is an "institution" without ever explaining what he meant by this term. Wittgenstein's contribution to the debate has since been subject to sharply opposed interpretations by "collectivist" and "individualist" readings by philosophers; in the light of this controversy, Bloor argues convincingly for a collectivist, sociological understanding of Wittgenstein's later work. (...) Accessible and simply written, this book provides the first consistent sociological reading of Wittgenstein's work for many years. (shrink)
Clearly and engagingly written, this volume is vital reading for students of philosophy and sociology, and anyone interested in Wittgenstein's later thought. David Bloor provides a challenging and informative evaluation of Wittgenstein's account of rules and rule-following. Arguing for a collectivist reading, Bloor offers the first consistent sociological interpretation of Wittgenstein's work for many years.
Why do aircraft fly? How do their wings support them? In the early years of aviation, there was an intense dispute between British and German experts over the question of why and how an aircraft wing provides lift. The British, under the leadership of the great Cambridge mathematical physicist Lord Rayleigh, produced highly elaborate investigations of the nature of discontinuous flow, while the Germans, following Ludwig Prandtl in Göttingen, relied on the tradition called “technical mechanics” to explain the flow of (...) air around a wing. Much of the basis of modern aerodynamics emerged from this remarkable episode, yet it has never been subject to a detailed historical and sociological analysis. In The Enigma of the Aerofoil, David Bloor probes a neglected aspect of this important period in the history of aviation. Bloor draws upon papers by the participants—their restricted technical reports, meeting minutes, and personal correspondence, much of which has never before been published—and reveals the impact that the divergent mathematical traditions of Cambridge and Göttingen had on this great debate. Bloor also addresses why the British, even after discovering the failings of their own theory, remained resistant to the German circulation theory for more than a decade. The result is essential reading for anyone studying the history, philosophy, or sociology of science or technology—and for all those intrigued by flight. (shrink)
How are social and institutional circumstances linked to the knowledge that scientists produce? To answer this question it is necessary to take risks: speculative but testable theories must be proposed. It will be my aim to explain and then apply one such theory. This will enable me to propose an hypothesis about the connexion between social processes and the style and content of mathematical knowledge.
I offer a reply to criticisms of the Strong Programme presented by Stephen Kemp who develops some new lines of argument that focus on the ‘monism’ of the programme. He says the programme should be rejected for three reasons. First, because it embodies ‘weak idealism’, that is, its supporters effectively sever the link between language and the world. Second, it challenges the reasons that scientists offer in explanation of their own beliefs. Third, it destroys the distinction between successful and unsuccessful (...) instrumental action. Kemp is careful to produce quotations from the supporters of the programme as evidence to support his case. All three points deserve and are given a detailed response and the interpretation of the quoted material plays a significant role in the discussion. My hope is that careful exegesis will offset the numerous misinterpretations that are current in the philosophical literature. Particular attention is paid to what is said about the normative standards involved in the application of empirical concepts. The operation of these standards in the face of the negotiability of all concepts is explored and misapprehensions on the topic are corrected. The work of Wittgenstein, Popper, Kuhn and Hesse is used to illustrate these themes.Keywords: Strong Programme; Social constructionism; Idealism; Monism; Finitism; Relativism. (shrink)
: H-J Rheinberger's book Toward a History of Epistemic Things contains a sophisticated account of scientific reference and scientific method worked out in conjunction with a case study of the laboratory synthesis of proteins. This paper offers a detailed critical analysis of Rheinberger's position from the standpoint of the sociology of scientific knowledge. The central thesis is that Rheinberger's account of reference, whether deliberately or unwittingly, assimilates discourse about the natural world to discourse about the social world. The result is (...) an inadequate account of scientific terms, which does not do justice to the independent character of the objects of scientific knowledge. A further feature of Rheinberger's approach is a commitment to an extreme form of methodological pluralism. This is challenged in the paper on the basis of a sociological reading of Carnap's famous identification of a "continuum of inductive methods.". (shrink)
I want to propose to you a theory about the nature of objectivity—a theory which will tell us something about its causes, its intrinsic character, and its sources of variation. The theory in question is very simple. Indeed, it is so simple that I fear you will reject it out of hand. Here is the theory: it is thatobjectivity is social. What I mean by saying that objectivity is social is that theimpersonalandstablecharacter that attaches to some of our beliefs, and (...) the sense of reality that attaches to their reference, derives from these beliefs beingsocial institutions. (shrink)
I want to propose to you a theory about the nature of objectivity—a theory which will tell us something about its causes, its intrinsic character, and its sources of variation. The theory in question is very simple. Indeed, it is so simple that I fear you will reject it out of hand. Here is the theory: it is that objectivity is social. What I mean by saying that objectivity is social is that the impersonal and stable character that attaches to (...) some of our beliefs, and the sense of reality that attaches to their reference, derives from these beliefs being social institutions. (shrink)
This essay is a follow-up to a previous article by the author, “Epistemic Grace: Antirelativism as Theology in Disguise,” published in Common Knowledge 13, nos. 2–3 : 250–80. Its central claim was that relativism and absolutism should be understood as categories that are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive; the two categories form a dichotomy, and thus the rejection of absolutism is a necessary and sufficient condition for the embrace of relativism and vice versa. Daniel Paksi, in a essay titled “Relativism (...) or Absolutism? David Bloor and the Snares of an Unfortunate Dichotomy,” claims that it is possible to adopt a position, a “third way,” that is neither relativist nor absolutist. He proposes that the “emergentism” of Michael Polanyi is such a third way. In response, David Bloor argues that Paksi's proposed third way is beset by profound and well-known problems of obscurity—specifically, by what is sometimes called the two-worlds problem. Bloor claims that the dichotomy of relativism and absolutism is more intelligible and more defensible than the emergentism that Paksi defends and concludes that the only ism between relativism and absolutism is obscurantism. (shrink)
Two points of contact are explored between contemporary philosophy of science and Dialectical Materialism. The first point deals with the interaction view of metaphor as an exemplification of the law of the unity of opposites. The contradiction is then noted between the strategy and tactics of much analytical philosophy and the lesson to be learnt from this account of metaphor. The concern to change category habits into category disciplines rules out the process of conceptual change of the interaction view. G. (...) A. Paul's dismissal of Lenin's theory of reflection is then criticized in the light of the interaction view. (shrink)
In this paper David Bloor defends his sociological analysis of the disputes over the nature of aerodynamic lift described in his historical study The Enigma of the Aerofoil. The criticisms expressed by Christopher Norris are rejected on the grounds that Norris systematically misrepresents the strong programme in the sociology of knowledge, e.g. by treating the principle of explanatory symmetry as if it meant ‘parity of esteem‘. Some of the various senses of the word ‘realism’ are identified and an account is (...) given of the respects in which the sociological analysis of scientific knowledge can be realist rather than, as Norris insists, anti-realist. (shrink)
At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a concerted effort was made in the discipline of fluid mechanics to make hidden and fleeting processes visible and to capture the results photographically. I examine two important cases. One concerns the photographs taken by H. S. Hele-Shaw in the 1890s showing the flow of a “perfect”, frictionless fluid. The other case deals with the photographs of boundary layer separation taken by Ludwig Prandtl. These were presented to the Third International Congress (...) of Mathematicians in Heidelberg in 1904. My concern in both cases will be with the relation of the photographs to the reality actually or putatively portrayed in the photograph. Superficially the two cases are very different. “Perfect” fluids were accepted as mere mathematical abstractions to which nothing real could correspond while the reality of the boundary layer has been accepted as a discovery of enormous physical and technical importance. A detailed examination, however, suggests some inner connections of a kind that challenges the understanding of certain “common sense” distinctions between the two cases.Keywords: Sichtbarmachung; Fluid mechanics; Perfect fluids; Boundary layer; Social construction; Prandtl; Hele-Shaw. (shrink)